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'The Monuments Men' review: A grizzled yet feeble endeavor

The Monuments Men


"The Monuments Men" was released theatrically starting today, February 7.

George Clooney, Dimitri Leonidas, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, and Matt Damon in "The Monuments Men."
George Clooney, Dimitri Leonidas, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, and Matt Damon in "The Monuments Men."
The Monuments Men 01
The official movie poster for "The Monuments Men."
Columbia Pictures

Towards the end of World War II, a group of six men consisting of architects, museum and design directors, sculptors, and art historians including James Rorimer (Matt Damon), Sgt. Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Sgt. Walter Garfield (John Goodman), Lt. Jean-Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin), Pvt. Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban), and Major Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) are all gathered together by Frank Stokes (George Clooney) in order to protect and save artwork, buildings, and monuments that would otherwise be damaged or destroyed by the Nazis with the intent of returning the art to its original owner even if it means risking their own lives to do so.

"The Monuments Men" was originally supposed to be released in December of 2013 in order to be eligible for the awards season. The comedic drama was pushed back to February of 2014 due to unforeseen delays in post-production thanks to the imbalance of humor mixed with the serious subject matter of the film. If you don't always make a mental note to be cautious about every film that's delayed for any reason then you should probably start now. More than likely said film is going to be disappointing or flat out terrible and "The Monuments Men" fails to really triumph over that conception.

The idea of saving paintings, statues, and murals from the menacing grasp of Hitler and the Nazis is an intriguing one and hearing the stories of the men who risk their lives for what is otherwise just paint on a canvas or a hunk of stone sounds really exciting. Expectations are that it's likely an incredible adventure the likes of which Indiana Jones might find himself on . With a cast like this, the humor should naturally be off the charts and there should be some unbelievable chemistry between such a talented cast.

Unfortunately, "The Monuments Men" is never able to fully capitalize on any potential you may expect. There's something there to appreciate, but it's as if there isn't enough of a main course to really impress you. The humor manages to make you snicker slightly, but never actually laugh out loud. The moments of comedy seem so brief and yet are the most memorable scenes in the film yet the only other noteworthy sequences the film has to offer are when tragedy strikes Frank's team. Bill Murray has one very specific scene that's extremely touching. Everything in between is just nothing but drawn out discussions about the job and extended speeches revolving around how important this work is for our country or honoring a deceased character you barely had the chance to get to know.

"The Monuments Men" puts a lighthearted spin on what is otherwise a very bleak topic. Its good nature and patriotism are apparent right from the start. While there are moments of special chemistry between characters like John Goodman and Jean Dujardin or Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett and Bill Murray and John Goodman are able to squeeze in their beloved comedic quirks, "The Monuments Men" feels like an elongated treasure hunt with dull results that attempts to mimic the atmosphere of "Ocean's Eleven" and fails.